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U.S. Attorney Andy Luger Promises to Bring Minnesota Somali Activists to White House

Abdirizak Bihi, left, and Ilhan Omar, speaking Sunday at the Brian Coyle Community Center

Abdirizak Bihi, left, and Ilhan Omar, speaking Sunday at the Brian Coyle Community Center

Earlier this month, U.S. Attorney Andy Luger announced that the Twin Cities would be the site of a new anti-terror pilot program. It came in response to reports of three young people who've recently disappeared or died fighting with ISIS (otherwise known as ISIL).

If Luger has been vague on the details, that's because he hasn't yet figured them out. But he doesn't intend to do that by himself.

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He's promising to bring several Minnesota Somali activists with him to the White House in October so they can all make the case that the problem of radicalization goes well beyond the headlines. It's a symptom of deeper problems -- joblessness, housing, self-image -- that are ubiquitous and won't be solved with good old-fashioned prosecution.

"I want you to know this is not an attack on the Somali community," Luger tells a crowd inside the Brian Coyle Community Center on Sunday. "This is something we're doing together."

The Somali community leaders who organized the discussion are asking for more resources that would fund after-school programs, athletic leagues, and the like.

"It's not a Somali issue or a Minnesota issue," says Mohamed Farah, who runs the youth-organization Ka Joog. "This is a nationwide issue."

Of course, the money may never come, and it wouldn't be the first time. Community leaders know this better than anyone else, which is why they're simultaneously stressing that elders and imams step up to the plate and guide the young folks into adulthood. Ilhan Omar, a Somali activist, notes that most of the people who've disappeared into either Africa or the Middle East since 2007 have been above the age of 22.

"We shouldn't just think about financial resources," she says, "but about how each of us can be a resource for that young person who is struggling."

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